Tea is the beverage of choice for many people around the world. Whether enjoyed simply for pleasure, health or warmth, tea can be experienced and experimented with. Straying from the common tea bag into the world of loose leaf can greatly enhance the flavor and quality of your tea. Brewing loose leaf tea can be rewarding, but what is the best way to create a tasty cup? Is it best to use a teapot, or an infuser?
Infusers, Teapots and Gaiwans
For the best tasting cup of tea, brew your leaves in smaller quantities. Although this is impractical when brewing for a large group of people, making tea in small "batches" creates premium flavor and doesn't give time for the tea to turn bitter. This can be accomplished with either an infuser, a small teapot, or a gaiwan. Traditionally, we associate brewing tea with teapots. However, it may be time to consider using an infuser, which consists of a mug and a strainer that pulls out after brewing, or a gaiwan, which is a small pot/cup that allows enough room for the tea leaves to unfurl. Check here to buy a brewing vessel.
Brewing in small quantities does not waste tea. Quality tea can be re-brewed 5-8 times. Instead of making a pot of tea that will be thrown away after becoming cold, make tea in personal portions. You will find yourself drinking satisfying, quality tea and the flavor will become more enriched with each round of brewing.
Water Temperature and Brewing Time
Although the British way of drinking tea is to simply boil the water for every type of tea, different teas require different water temperature and brewing times. Below is a basic table of brewing for the most common teas. This table is not exact and must be adjusted to fit your tastes.
Green- 175° 1 min.
White- 185° 1-2 min.
Most Oolongs*- 195°-200° 2-3 min.
Black & Pu-erh- 205° 2 min.
Herbal- 212° 2-3 min.
Jasmine- 180° 1 min.
Also, temperature can be gauged by the bubbles in the pot rather than using a thermometer.
175° small bubbles appear
180° small bubbles begin to rise
190° medium bubbles appear
195° medium bubbles appear to rise
205° near boil
Note: Always err on the side of too cool of water. This will create better taste. *The phoenix oolong takes only 30-45 sec for brewing. **Details from table provided by the Red Blossom Tea Company. Visit their website to purchase high-quality tea or to find more tea-brewing information.
Amount of Tea
Many tea drinkers have specific measures of how much tea to use. However, teas come in different sizes. Some are ground, while many seem to be entire leaves. Therefore, a good standard to measure by is to lightly cover the bottom of your brewing vessel. As long as you're using a smaller pot or gaiwan, this should be the right amount of tea to use. And remember, using the same tea leaves for multiple batches does not ruin flavor, but rather enhances it.
The actual process of brewing tea is very simple. First, after heating the water, quickly rinse the tea leaves with hot water while they are in the brewing vessel. This will simultaneously warm the pot as well as begin the infusion of the leaves. Secondly, dump that water and pour fresh water to brew in. Let the leaves steep in the water for the specified time. Always err on the side of shorter amounts of time. It's much more pleasant to drink weak tea rather than bitter tea. After brewing, strain tea into a separate cup for drinking. When another cup is desired, simply pour more hot water over the tea. Then, relax and enjoy.